Can I get an Annulment Instead of a Divorce? March 4, 2016

We are 45 years removed from the Mad Men era when divorce carried with it a stigma. At the time, a divorced person was viewed with suspicion and was not to be trusted. A divorced person was somehow morally bankrupt.

Nowadays, the stigma of divorce is not what it used to be. But from time to time, clients will tell me they want an annulment instead of a divorce. A divorce is a blemish on their ‘permanent record’ that they would rather avoid.

In Texas, you don’t necessarily get to choose whether your marriage is dissolved by divorce or annulment. Access to an annulment is limited. In Texas, there are seven grounds for an annulment, none of which are to avoid the stigma of a divorce.

Marriage of a person under age 18

A court in Texas may grant an annulment of a person age 16 or 17 if the marriage occurred without the consent of a parent or a court order. You’re probably wondering what happens when a child under 16 years of age is married. In that case, the marriage is considered void as a matter of law. There is no marriage.

Under the influence of alcohol or drugs

A court in Texas may grant an annulment of a marriage if, at the time of the marriage, a party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage, and has not cohabitated with the other spouse since the effects of the alcohol or drugs ended.

An example of this scenario might be the stereotypical Vegas wedding. The parties get drunk and decide on the spur of the moment to get married. In that case, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. The parties are still married when they return to Texas. As long as they don’t live together, the marriage may be annulled.

Impotency

A court in Texas may grant an annulment if either party is permanently impotent at the time of marriage, the petitioner didn’t know of the impotency at the time of the marriage, and parties did not live together since the petitioner learned of the impotency.

Fraud, Duress, or Force

A court in Texas may grant an annulment of a marriage if a party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the other party to marry, and the parties did not live together since the petitioner learned of the fraud, or since being released from the duress or force.

Mental Incapacity

A Texas court may grant an annulment of a marriage if at the time of the marriage a party did not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage due to a mental disease or defect.

Concealed Divorce

A court in Texas may grant an annulment if the other party was divorced from a third party within 30 days before the marriage ceremony, the petitioner didn’t know about the divorce, and the parties did not cohabitate after the petitioner learned of the divorce. However, the suit for annulment must be filed within one year from the date of the marriage.

Marriage with 72 hours after issuance of the license

A Texas court may grant an annulment of a marriage if the marriage ceremony took place within 72 hours of the time the license was issued so long as the suit for annulment is filed within 30 days from the date of the marriage.

Annulments are rare. I’ve been a family law attorney for the better part of two decades. I’ve handled hundreds of divorce cases, but I’ve only handled two annulments. The most interesting of the two cases involved the marriage of a 16 girl to a 21-year-old man. Though she did not have the court-ordered power to consent, the mother of the girl consented to the marriage to avoid paying child support. Needless to say, the annulment was granted.

If you believe you qualify for an annulment, gives us a call at 940-387-3518, or contact us here, to discuss your case. We’ll talk about your case and whether an annulment is right for you.

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